Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Flash 4x11 Review: "The Elongated Knight Rises" (I Don’t Really Care About Ralph Dibny) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"The Elongated Knight Rises"
Original Airdate: January 23, 2018 

Why does Ralph Dibny get so much focus on this show? This is the second episode named after him this season and the third one with a direct focus on his character growth. Are they trying to make up for him being almost irredeemably awful? Because focusing even more on him isn’t actually helpful, if so. It’s like when you try drawing a picture and it doesn’t come out quite right so you erase and try again, and it’s still not right so you erase and try again and — stop, stop! There reaches a point where what you’re working on is no longer a drawing, but an unfathomable mess made of graphite smudges and chaos. What I’m saying is... back off from the Dibny stories, The Flash. Just a bit.


I guess I was wrong about Barry not having much use behind bars, since he’s only a week in and already stopping a full-on riot. I just don’t think Central City’s legal system is very good, people. Not only have two men from the same family been wrongly accused of murder on evidence that had to be questionable, but there are frequent riots within the prison walls and they hire their nurses without performing strenuous background checks.

Because, yes, this is where our episode plot begins, though Barry isn't all that involved with it. Jailed Barry is understandably moody (funny aside: the color correction to make Barry’s prison scenes suitably sad and gloomy seriously looks like they just borrowed the desaturation specs from Arrow’s post-production team) and not ready to be “murder buds” with anyone — especially not Axel, son of The Trickster. Thankfully, the conversation with Axel is cut short by Axel complaining of stomach pains from some bad pudding, and the actual crazed murderer is sent to the infirmary. There, one of the nurses reveals herself to be Axel’s mother, medicated and ready to live a normal life with her son rather than a life of crime.

I actually do feel a little sorry for Zoey Clark. Her ungrateful offspring only cares about what his dad thinks of him while she went through all the trouble of actually raising him when he was a kid and breaking him out of prison as an adult. Then Axel’s rejection of her plans to live a normal life leads her to stop taking her medication so that she can become her villainous alter-ego Prank again, and the two of them can become a criminal duo. It’s a pretty messed up family, even excluding the supervillainy.

Back in the villainy game, Trickster II and Prank begin targeting the newest hero on the scene: Ralph Dibny, who is still unnamed. Trickster II calls Dibny out and Dibny loves it, up until Trickster II sprays him with a pink acidic too that actually hurts him. See, up until this point, Ralph thought he was indestructible. He caught bombs, bullets, throwing stars — anything tossed in his direction, his rubbery cells could handle. Until Trickster II’s acid.

Thus, the main emotional arc of the episode become Dibny learning to be a hero despite the risks that come with being a hero. He doesn’t actually want to to the masked crusader thing if it means getting hurt, because getting hurt hurts and no one likes that. He quits on the spot, and we’re expected to care about whether he changes his mind in the end.

Okay, I’m being harsh because it’s Dibny. The truth is, a previously-invulnerable hero learning that pain comes with the superhero suit is an interesting concept, and I would have been really interested in it if it weren’t for the fact that The Flash fumbled Dibny’s entire introduction/character. He would’ve been fine as a washed-up PI with good intentions (last week’s speech to Joe about not planting evidence was proof of that) but add in a personality as a serial sexual harasser? A personality trait, by the by, which has not been addressed at all while the show has carefully tried to deconstruct every other negative trait of Ralph’s since he’s shown up. They just ignore the fact that Dibny is gross and lecherous, telling us that his other negative features can totally be fixed and we should like him now!

I’m not on board with this. It’s like I said: they made a mess with this character, and they can’t keep going back to the same sheet of paper, erasing and redrawing, and expect a masterpiece out of it. It’s bad enough that Dibny’s character development is taking up the time that should have been spent on Wally (and I hear he’s on Legends of Tomorrow now — may those writers treat Wally West better than The Flash writers ever have).

Back onto the plot, though: Trickster II and Prank have kidnapped some innocent bystanders and, inspired by the reaction Axel got from Dibny, they’ve decided that the pink acid goo will be their primary weapon to lure out “Stretchy Man.” This is definitely a time for Team Flash, but Dibny’s still freaking out over his vulnerability and no one on the team knows how to help him. Killer Frost and Vibe take it upon themselves to intervene in Dibny’s stead, but they’re quickly tricked by Trickster II and it’s their turn to get threatened.

Dibny stretches his way to Barry’s prison cell, hoping to convince him to break out real quick and save his friends. So has the Flash just disappeared as far as Central City is concerned? Hopefully no one keeping tabs on the Flash has connected the dots between his disappearance and Barry’s incarceration but, I mean, that assumes that Barry’s worst-kept secret isn’t common knowledge throughout the city. I still think they’re all not saying “you’re the Flash!” to his face because Central City is unusually polite.

All the help Barry can provide, however, is a little pep talk to help Dibny realize the true hero within himself or whatever. Dibny sucks up his fear and makes himself into an umbrella over Caitlin and Cisco just in time and... feels nothing. Harry had, apparently, figured out a way to make Dibny invulnerable to the acid as well as everything else on the planet, so the stakes were always at zero. Cool. Good to know. I suppose it’s nice that Dibny didn’t know he wasn’t going to get hurt but put himself in harm’s way regardless, but it still feels cheap.

The mother/son crime team is jailed once more. Barry is still in jail, breaking up fights and making friends with dudes who knew his father once upon a time. Barry’s little side-story with Dave wasn’t bad, actually — just a bit more “side” than warrants legitimate recapping. Hopefully, Barry will go on more prison adventures in the future and learn some more stuff about his father while he’s in the big house.

Back to their normal day-to-day, Cisco and Dibny are getting coffee when they both realize that neither wants to pay for the brew. They’re saved by the mysterious waitress from Barry and Iris’s wedding, who is very talkative without saying much of anything at all. She bids them farewell and they carry on, while she goes back to her table and proceeds to write in the same alien/futuristic writing that Barry had been using when he exited the Speed Force. Intriguing!

Next week: looks like more filler. Eh.

Other Things:
  • Cute bonus: the actress who plays Prank/Zoey in this episode was on the 1990s The Flash TV show as the same character, and if I’m not mistaken, the photo they show of her and Mark Hamill’s Trickster character together is a still from the old show.
  • Barry phasing his hand through that jail separation glass to hold hands with Iris? Freakin’ adorable.


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